Six Movies to Watch For from Cannes

Movie stars, tragedies, and even some laughs

Six Movies to Watch For from Cannes
 Foxcatcher

Even if Steve Carell’s performance in Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher — a terrific one — ends up being the most lauded in the film, what Channing Tatum does is more complicated and more wondrous. Carell plays John du Pont, the eccentric heir, ornithologist, and wrestling enthusiast who, in the 1980s, turned part of his lavish Delaware County, Pennsylvania, estate into a training facility for young athletes, crowning himself “coach” of a team he hoped would become Olympic champs. Tatum plays Mark Schultz, the Olympic gold-winning wrestler who, for a time, nestled under du Pont’s wing: The socially awkward but seemingly harmless benefactor set himself up as a father figure to Mark, eventually persuading Mark’s brother, Dave (Mark Ruffalo), also an Olympic gold winner, to coach the team.

Du Pont shot Dave Schultz dead in 1996. Miller’s movie attempts to explore, rather than explain, the events leading up to this bizarre murder; his actors aren’t so much giving performances as giving shape and life to human behavior, with all its shadows, kinks, and unspoken insecurities.

How, exactly, do you play an athlete who closes himself off emotionally, as Mark does when du Pont’s controlling monomania becomes too much to bear? Tatum pulls off the tricky feat of shading his character’s emotions without shutting down so much that the camera can’t pick them up. And his body, even with its firm arcs of muscle, is as graceful as a Brancusi poised to take flight; it tells us all the things Mark is afraid to say with his eyes.

Two Days, One Night

Marion Cotillard, the star of the Dardenne brothers’ Two Days, One Night, showed up for the Cannes photo call in a minidress encrusted with a riot of buttons, a whimsical and rather adorable choice for an actress who, onscreen just a few minutes earlier, had made many of us believe she was a French factory worker. In the film, Cotillard plays Sandra, an employee at a company that assembles solar panels. She’s suffered a breakdown, and her boss has taken a vote among her co-workers: They can either forgo their bonuses and keep Sandra in her job, or, figuratively speaking, vote her off the island and collect the dough.

They vote for the dough, and the rest of Two Days, One Night is essentially a graceful theorem that proves Jean “In this world, there is one awful thing, and that is that everyone has his reasons” Renoir right, though it also proves, as Renoir knew, that people don’t have to be enslaved by their reasons.

One of the most annoying things a critic, or anybody, can say about an actress is, “She’s too pretty to be a factory worker/hooker/junkie.” The assumption is that people who have been graced with beauty should never have any cause to suffer, any reason to be stuck in the wrong place or with the wrong person. Cotillard’s Sandra is beautiful because Cotillard is beautiful; she also looks believably tired, careworn, anxious. Cotillard is capable of amazing lightness and luminosity, but she may be even better at carrying weight.

Wild Tales

Argentinian writer-director Damián Szifron’s Wild Tales is loose-limbed, rowdy, and exhilarating. In its vibrant lunacy, and with its cartoonishly brash violence, it’s a little bit Almodóvar, a little bit Tarantino. Wild Tales is a collection of sketches, six in all, which have virtually nothing to do with one another aside from their astute, and not necessarily generous, view of human nature. In one sequence, an asshole speeding down the highway in a fancy new Audi (Leonardo Sbaraglia) yells “Redneck!” as he passes an unshaven thug in a dirty truck (Walter Donado). Then, naturalmente, Audi Guy gets a flat tire, and Mr. Redneck proceeds to make his life miserable, using every tool at his disposal (including some you really won’t want to recall while you’re eating).

Mr. Turner

If you’ve ever loved a terrible person, Mike Leigh’s quietly sensational Mr. Turner — a biopic of sorts covering the last 25 years of the life of the great 19th-century British painter J.M.W. Turner — is the movie for you. Human beings don’t figure largely in Turner’s work; when they appear at all, they’re often small, blurred figures at the mercy of the sky above and the sea below. You can read that as a lack of interest in human nature, or as a kind of personal humility in the face of the vast range of colors and textures, and, by extension, sounds and smells and feelings, that make up the world around us.

As played by Timothy Spall, Turner isn’t the sort you’d necessarily want to cuddle up to. Only occasionally does he use actual words to communicate. More often, he makes his feelings known using a vast vocabulary of growls that emerge from the depths of his throat. Presented with a visitor he doesn’t wish to see, Turner makes the sound of a bear snuffling through garbage and finding nothing of worth. Mr. Turner, majestic in its stubbornness, may be Leigh’s finest picture; Spall has always been a terrific actor, but this is the performance of his career.

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